What have Lusignac, Cognac, Bergerac, Pauillac, Montignac and Cantenac all in common, is the suffix -ac. The -ac is derived from -acum, meaning ‘place of’ or ‘property of’ the location of either a god, a person or a people. It comes from the Gaulish language, an ancient Celtic language that was spoken in parts of Continental Europe before and during the period of the Roman Empire.
The suffix -acum didn't just become -ac, but a large number of different endings, depending on the language and dialect of the region, e.g. -ait, -aix, -ai, -ay, -ieux, -ex, -y and ecques.
A few examples:
Lusignac, the name in the Occitan language is Lusinhac, which comes from the name of an estate in Gallo-Roman times belonging to a ‘Lucinius’.
Bergerac comes from the Frankish word ‘Bragayrac’, which is derived from the Gallic word ‘braca’, Latin ‘Bracius’ plus the -ac, meaning an estate in Gallo-Roman times belonging to a ‘Bracarius’.
The last example is Cognac, coming from Old Gallo-Romance Coniacum, the ‘estate owned by Comnius’.
Completely beside the point but interesting to read, is the following:
Tradition has it that, in the 16th century, farmers in Charente were given the idea by a Dutchman to distil their wine. The idea was that the distillate would later be diluted with water. It took up less space and was therefore cheaper to transport. However, the distillate itself was so popular that it was soon limited to that.
Like the Dutch, the English liked the ‘eau-de-vie de Coignac’ and was traded to England at a very early stage. The founders of the two largest cognac firms, Martell and Hennessy, came from Jersey and Ireland respectively. Written communication and accounts of their companies were all in English, so the words ‘Conniacke wine’ and later ‘Coniac’, were recorded earlier than in French.
Pimm + Marcel
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